The Rise of Mega Renewable Energy Projects in Australia

Throughout the pandemic, Australia has seen a heightened focus on the optimisation of government backed stimulus packages or best use of private sector investment dollars. 

 

It is increasingly clear that investment in renewable energy makes sense. Not only does it help create thousands of jobs, but also addresses the great environmental and health issue of our time – climate change. 

In response, the country has recently witnessed a rise in mega projects. For full disclosure, a Mega project is generally defined as projects costing more than $1 billion.

Whilst the Australian Renewable Energy sector has technically only seen the construction completion of 1 mega project – that is the Stockyard Hill Wind farm (530MW in central Victoria) at $1.1 billion, there is certainly a growing trend of the rise of mega projects and big batteries across our island nation. Here are current highlights:

 

Stockyard Hill Wind Farm

The Stockyard Hill Farm is a joint project between Goldwind Australia and Nebras Power, an international power investment company based in Qatar. 

Since 2018 when the project first commenced, 149 wind turbines have been installed. So far, Stockyard Hill has not finalised commissioning or become fully operational which may point to a few obstacles.

Furthermore, they’ve joined a number of other projects such as 336MW Dundonnell wind farm, the 194MW bungala wind farm, and the 246MW Kiamal solar farm – which all have been seriously delayed in connection and commissioning in Victoria, due to the limits of the local network.

 

Sun Cable Project

Two of the most highly publicised mega projects – Sun Cable’s “Australia ASEAN Power link” (AAPL) and CWP’s Asia Renewable Energy Hub represent a total of 25GW of combined wind and solar capacity, and a further 30Gwh of storage. 

This equates to Australia’s entire domestic needs to replace the bulk of the coal fleet that will retire in coming decades, according to some estimates.

Sun Cable obtained initial investment from Mike Cannon-Brookes, founder of Grok Ventures, and co-founder of Atlassian, and mining billionaire and a founder of Squadron Energy, Andrew Forrest to develop the Australian – ASEAN Power link. 

This project involves a 14 GW solar farm with approximately 33 GWh battery energy storage located near Elliot in the Northern Territory. The electricity generated at the Solar / Storage facility will be transmitted 750km overhead to Darwin and then via a 3,750km undersea high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission network to Singapore.

The $26 billion Sun Cable project was recently granted ‘major project’ status from the federal government, which will allow the project to benefit from an expedited planning and environmental approval process. This project will also create nearly 1500 jobs during construction, and further 350 jobs during operations.


Asian Renewable Energy

Another key mega-project focused on the export markets is the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, backed by CWP renewables, Vestas and Macquarie Group, which is also aiming to build more than 15,000MW of solar and wind capacity in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. A large proportion of this is planned to be used to produce zero emissions hydrogen or ammonia and for export to neighbouring Asian countries. 

Whilst these multi-billion-dollar projects have gained their fair share of publicity, there are many other huge projects progressing through the planning and development phase across Australia. 


The Star of the South offshore Wind

One of them is The Star of the South offshore Wind project, strongly supported by the Victorian government which aims to build Australia’s first offshore 4000MW wind farm. 

Backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, this project will have an estimated cost of around $10 billion once completed and is expected to create as many as 2,000 jobs during the construction phase. It will also require a sub-sea cable link to the project, with onshore transmission infrastructure and then grid connection infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley.


The New England Solar Farm

The New England Solar Farm in northern NSW developed by UPC/AC Renewables Australia joint venture, has recently secured debt financing for the first stage (400MW solar farm) of this massive project.

At a planned 720MW solar and 400MWh big battery, and total cost of over $10 billion this project once operational could be one of the largest in the country. 

Despite the fact that a long-term power purchase agreement is not in place, the securing of debt financing for a merchant project is welcomed by many in the Renewable Energy sector, showcasing a heightened confidence in the investor & finance community for Renewable Energy projects. 

Again, this project will not only be capable of producing enough energy to power around 250,000 homes annually, but also create more than 500 direct construction jobs. 

In addition to the growth of proposed mega Renewable Energy projects from a generation perspective, there is a huge growth in planned mega-battery projects -providing direct grid security benefits, thanks to their speed of dispatching and flexibility, and enabling more renewables to enter the overall system, particularly as coal and gas-fired thermal power stations continue to announce earlier than planned closures. 

Such big batteries include: 300MW/450MWh Victoria big battery being built near Geelong by Neoen, a 350MW/1400MWh planned by EnergyAustralia, before the closure of its Yallourn coal plant.

Other projects in the pipeline includes Origin Energy, which is planning a 700MW and 2,800MWh battery at its Eraring coal plant in NSW before 2032, and a 250MW/1,000MWh battery planned by AGL in South Australia.

 

It is clear that not only is there a growing trend towards new “mega” projects, but also that these projects will involve co-location of Solar and/or wind and battery or pumped hydro storage.

 

Anávo is  proud to be a recruitment partner of Sun Cable and have further grown this partnership over the past 18 months by placing highly diverse & specialised Senior Professionals –  including Principal HVDC and Power systems Engineers, Communication & Indigenous Affairs Managers, Project Planners and Indonesian Country Representatives. 

We are also excited to be supporting many of the proponents, consultants, technology providers and equipment suppliers who play critical roles in the success of these projects, and driving Australia towards a low-carbon economy.

 

About the Author:

Liz is a Senior Recruitment Manager at Anávo. For over 15 years, Liz has helped businesses grow in the Renewable Energy & Environment industries, as a highly successful and reliable recruitment professional.

Read more about Liz Floyd.

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